Growing a Food Garden in the City Compost and Fertilizer

About the proper preparation needed to plant your own food garden in particular the proper use of compost and fertilizer.


Compost is the richest fertilizer that exists, and is composed of decayed organic matter. You can make your own by combining a 6" layer of "green matter" (leaves, grass, and decomposable kitchen scraps) with 2" layers of manure and earth. Water should be added to moisten, but not soak, each layer. The sequence of layers should be repeated until the compost reaches a height of 3' to 4'. When it reaches the desired height it should be turned every 2 weeks. It should be hot, which indicates the presence of bacterial action--that is, decay. If it doesn't heat up, you need more nitrogen. Add chicken manure for a layer or 2 or bone meal or blood meal, all high in nitrogen. If the compost smells, add ground limestone. Your fully decayed compost will be ready to dig into your garden in 2 to 3 months. You will be providing the best food for your plants while simultaneously enriching the soil and helping to alleviate the garbage problem.

Where do you keep a compost heap? If you have outdoor space you can dig a pit, build an above-ground wood frame for it, or simply pile it up in a heap. Cover your pit, frame, or heap with heavy plastic or burlap bags. Backyard heaps should not include meat scraps, as these attract neighborhood animals. If you have no outdoor space, get a plastic garbage can and punch some holes around the sides a few inches from the bottom. Proceed with layers as outlined above. Make sure you use well-aged manure to avoid an odor problem.

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